52! Week Thirty-Seven

By Johns, Morrison, Rucka, Waid, Giffen, Olliffe, Geraci, SInclair, Lanham, Richards, Schaefer, and Siglain. Cover by Jones and Sinclair.

52 was a weekly series published by DC Comics starting in May, 2006. Because I had my 52nd birthday in late 2020, I thought it might be interesting (fun?) to examine this series for its 15th anniversary. I plan to post once a week about each issue. To read previous posts, click the link (52!).

Synopsis

“Secret Identities”

Week 37, Day 1

Skeets threatens the bottled city of Kandor demanding that Rip Hunter and Supernova surrender themselves to it. Rip tells Supernova to stall Skeets while he reassembles the circuitry of Supernova’s costume. Supernova exits Kandor and he is revealed to be Booster Gold. Rip tells Booster to tell Skeets everything to buy them more time.

Booster tells Skeets, “I’ve known what’s up with you for weeks now”. When Booster visited Rip’s lab, Hunter appeared and told Booster the truth about Skeets and they formulated a plan: Booster would gather weapons after faking his death and assuming the role of Supernova, whose abilities were the result of the Atom’s size-changing belt and the circuitry of the Phantom Zone projector in Superman’s Fortress of Solitude.

Rip joins Booster in the Fortress and activates the projector on Skeets. However, as Booster observes, Skeets has “eaten the Phantom Zone…!” Rip makes a hasty retreat with Booster, but Skeets follows.

Week 37, Day 4

While Green Lantern helps repair Star City’s electrical grid, Oliver Queen talks with Black Canary about Ralph Dibny, telling her that he’s unstable in trying to bring back his dead wife.

Week 37, Day 5

Lobo presides over Animal Man’s funeral, and then Adam Strange and Starfire head back to Earth. However, Animal Man wakes up, calling out to his comrades, “Don’t leave me!!!” Then the aliens that gave Buddy his powers appear saying, “And so it begins.”

Thoughts

What were they thinking, spoiling the reveal on page 4 on the cover?! That was quite the reveal, though, which can only be overshadowed by the upcoming one regarding Skeets. I like the whole bit about Booster’s dead body being from his future — I wonder if that was ever dealt with in any way in his solo series that followed this?

This issue, with the exception of the Star City interlude, was chock full of revelations: 1) Animal Man didn’t actually die and 2) his alien benefactors appear with an ominous sounding proclamation. Could you imagine the dread Buddy is feeling in that moment when he awakens, thinking he was abandoned light years from home and no way to get there? Alas, he has no time to ponder his predicament. Is there a connection to these aliens and what Rip Hunter is dealing with regarding the timeline and what Skeets has become?

But wait! They’re not done with us yet! This issue also features Dan DiDio’s DC Nation column that proclaims “This column is a clue!” under the 52 banner. I remember the message boards being abuzz about the secret code that, as I recall, I found out some months after this. I’ve never been one to try and figure out stuff like this*, content to let others with more time and inclination to do the legwork. What I don’t recall is if I found out the reveal at the end of the series first or this secret message — I think it was the former. I even went on one of those boards and proclaimed my appreciation for the new paradigm, something I don’t think I repeated.

In case you’re curious, the message was “The secret of fifty-two is that the multiverse still exists.”

The Origin of Firestorm

By Waid, Igle, Champagne, Sinclair, Lanham, Richards, Schaefer, and Siglain

Was fusing with multiple people a new thing with Jason as Firestorm? I only read a few appearances of this version of the character, and I know his series was a favorite of one of my friends, but I’ve yet to read it. I liked this time at DC Comics when the successors to these characters were younger and not another white dude (like Blue Beetle and not like Kyle Green Lantern).

52! Week Fifteen

52 15
By Johns, Morrison, Rucka, Waid, Giffen, Moll, Nguyen, Sinclair, Fletcher, Jones, Richards, Wacker. Cover by Jones and Sinclair.

52 was a weekly series published by DC Comics starting in May, 2006. Because I had my 52nd birthday in late 2020, I thought it might be interesting (fun?) to examine this series for its 15th anniversary. I plan to post once a week about each issue. To read previous posts, click the link (52!).

Synopsis

“Outshined”

Week 15, Day 1, 3, 4

Booster Gold is forced to remove his Ferris Aircraft sponsorship from his uniform. He continues to receive Past Due notices in the mail and starts drawing on the NewsTime cover photo of Supernova, complete with comical mustache and knife stabbed into the new hero’s head. Finally, in frustration with the online coverage Supernova is getting, Booster appears to pour water on his laptop.

Week 15, Day 5

A desperate Booster is looking for anything to get him into the good graces of the people of Metropolis. Skeets obliges when it announces that a nuclear submarine will crash in midtown.

In Kahndaq, Renee Montoya is removed from her jail cell to be interrogated (but she states it’s torture). When they pass by what looks like an empty cell where Charlie was, Renee becomes very concerned for her partner. But Charlie uses his binary gas to create a diversion, allowing Renee to take out her guards and free Charlie.

Clark Kent discovers that the nuclear sub is being carried by a mythical beast called a Ballostro, and he races off to get the story. Booster arrives, trying to defeat the beast, but only succeeds in causing a blackout. Supernova arrives, providing light for the nearby citizens and teleporting the Ballostro away. He stops to check on Booster while the crowd heckles Booster. Booster attacks Supernova and they fight. Skeets informs Booster that the nuclear sub is leaking radiation, and Booster uses his supersuit to raise the sub high  into the Metropolis sky, where it explodes. Supernova catches Booster and reveals that Booster is dead.

Thoughts

Another great cover image with the blood spatter and Supernova reflected in Booster’s goggles. Some of the cover text is done as if the comic book was the news document, a diagetic element I really like. The cover suggests, possibly, that Supernova is responsible for Booster’s defeat (demise?), but in a way, he really is.

Booster’s growing hatred of Supernova is comically rendered at first, then takes a darker turn when Booster assaults the new hero, and then the story as a whole takes an even darker turn when Booster apparently dies. I have to say, when I first read this issue 15 years ago, I was genuinely surprised but still skeptical because why infuse this series with so much of the character and then kill him off not yet a third of the way through? Did Supernova have something to do with this situation leading to Booster’s death? After all, his comment to Booster about not letting what the crowd was saying about him get to him, and then jabbing at him with, “Of course you aren’t. I mean … why start now, right?” This is the first time Supernova is shown to be something other than a stereotypical, altruistic superhero. His comments perhaps suggest that he has some sort of connection to Booster, or it could just be that he, like the Metropolitans, doesn’t hold Booster in high regard. I think I remember where this ends up, and while I don’t recall the details completely, it is a fun twist that possibly (I assume?) sets up Booster’s 2007 solo series (?) — I have that run of comic books but have not read them yet.

Death seems to be a theme in this issue because things do not look good for the Question. After Renee frees him from his cell, Charlie weakly tells her, “I’m … ngk … with you to the end, Renee …” — notice the emphasis. If this is indeed the beginning of the end of Charlie, I’d forgotten this start of it.

The Origin of Steel

by Waid, Bogdanove, Sinclair, Napolitano, Richards, Wacker

I still don’t know Steel’s backstory that well. I knew about his work with Amertek and the guilt he felt, but I didn’t know that he tried to commit suicide.

The bit about Luthor’s scheme to end Steel by transforming John’s skin to liquid metal makes no sense. Besides having steel for skin (paging Power Man …), what’s the downside? I sure hope there’s more to this story in 52 as we go forward. Also, in the Powers and Weapons section, apparently Steel’s hammer “whose kinetic energy increases with distance thrown”. Was that part of Steel’s transformation or always a part of his hammer? I find that an interesting part of this hero, but why move him away from his armor to this steel-skin thing? It’s not like DC didn’t already have metal men roaming about.

52! Week Ten

By Johns, Morrison, Rucka, Waid, Giffen, Batista, Palmiatti, Jadson, Sinclair, Fletcher, Cohen, Jones, Richards, and Wacker. Cover by Jones and Sinclair.

52 was a weekly series published by DC Comics starting in May, 2006. Because I had my 52nd birthday in late 2020, I thought it might be interesting (fun?) to examine this series 15 years later. I plan to post once a week about each issue. To read previous posts, click the link (52!).

Synopsis

“Stop the Press”

Week 10, Day 1: In Kahndaq, Black Adam meets with his allies and potential allies. He is interrupted by the young woman, Adrianna Tomaz (who was given to him as a gift in issue three), who is attempting to flee.

Week 10, Day 2: At the Daily Planet, Perry White reprimands Clark Kent for allowing the Daily Star to get the scoop on the newest Metropolis superhero, Supernova. Perry tells Clark that because of his poor performance over the last few months, Clark is fired. Clark then sees Supernova flying by the Daily Planet and jumps out the window. His tactic pays off because Supernova catches him, allowing Clark to interview him.

Black Adam’s palace guards release Adrianna from her overnight holding cell and she and Black Adam have a conversation. She tells him that he will “plunge this world into war”.

Week 10, Day 3: Lois chastises Clark for throwing himself into harms way for a story, the irony of which is not lost on her husband. He tells Lois that he thinks Supernova is on the level.

Week 10, Day 4: Booster Gold is feeling sore that he’s had to relocate from his penthouse condo to a three-room rental and is looking to take it out on Supernova.

Week 10, Day 6: Will Magnus visits Dr. Morrow again, and he shows Morrow an empty cocoon that Dr. Sivanna had been treating with radiation.

Thoughts

Look at the artistry on display with this Jones/Sinclair cover. The folds and wrinkles in Clark Kent’s clothing and the look of the newspapers falling around him are just spectacular.

Notice the issue title is “Stop the Press”, not “Presses”. Aside from Clark’s employment issue (which is quickly resolved), these phrases usually mean that urgent information has come to light and needs to be disseminated. So what is that information this issue? That Black Adam’s mission will fail? That Clark is not a great reporter? That Dr. Morrow is still grateful that Magnus visits him?

The opening scene with Black is interesting for a couple reasons:

  • One, he says “Shazam” but the lightning does not come. He appears to be intrigued, but what will come of this? I love how the artists drew this scene, especially the middle panel: it’s just Adam staring into the sky with some birds in the distance — its a quit moment for him before all of the drama.
  • Two, the gathering. I have to confess, while I did recognize the big guy from the Great Ten and a Rocket Red, I had to look up the others in this two-page spread. From left to right, we have: Queen Cobra (who is new, according to my internet source), Sonar (whom I thought I recognized but wasn’t sure because of the way he was drawn), Lady Zand (whom I thought at first was Blackfire), Ibis the Invincible (whom I thought was a new Sargon the Sorcerer at first), August General in Iron, Cascade (whom I did not know was from the Global Guardians), and Rocket Red. I’m sure some of the “normals” in the scene are based on people who either work at DC Comics or from the artist’s life — there’s just too many of them looking at the camera to not be more than background characters.

Clark Kent is fired for underperforming. This is just calling out what we already know — Clark, in normal circumstances, is the equivalent of an athlete who is doping. Is he even a good reporter? I’ve always disliked that Clark got his job because he cheated (writing about himself), and it seems this reliance on his super abilities has only continued over the years. Hell, he even borrows a page from Lois’ playbook by falling into the arms of a superman! (And the later scene of her chastising Clark for that act was priceless.) Oh, how the mighty have fallen!

I loved the scene between Adrianna and Black Adam with her speaking truth to power. She’s also not a bit player and not a victim. Is their argument their meet-cute?

The scene with Lois and Clark is notable not just for their conversation about what Clark did and Supernova, but also for the fact that this is the first scene with one of the Trinity since the series started and we get an update on the other two! Speaking of Supernova, we see that he apparently can teleport, flies, has destructo-vision or something (more teleportation, perhaps?), and he gets Superman’s seal of approval.

Finally, in the scene with Morrow and Magnus, the former doctor is tidying up his cell by returning some books to a shelf. One is Brave New World and the other is 1984. Given the dystopian futures in both novels, how ominous is this message? Is Morrow preparing for his role in this future (taking inspiration from the stories) or are these just his version of “light” entertainment? In the next panel, we see Frankenstein, which is more up Morrow’s alley, but what do all of these books have in common with him, his situation, or this series generally?

History of the DCU, part 9

by Jurgens, Lanning, Napolitano, Cox, Major, Berganza, Cohen, and Schaefer

This installment was a reminder of everything going on between Identity Crisis and Infinite Crisis, including Villains United, the Rogue War, the return of Hal Jordan, Day of Vengeance, the Rann-Thanagar War, the murder of Blue Beetle by Max Lord, Batman’s OMAC Project, and Wonder Woman’s execution of Max Lord. There’s also the rebirth of Jason Todd and Donna Troy, so this time in DC Comics publishing history wasn’t all about distrust, death, and destruction.

52! Week Eight

By Johns, Morrison, Rucka, Waid, Giffen, Barrows, Stull, Sinclair, Lanham, Jones, Richards, and Wacker. Cover by Jones and Sinclair.

52 was a weekly series published by DC Comics starting in May, 2006. Because I had my 52nd birthday in late 2020, I thought it might be interesting (fun?) to examine this series 15 years later. I plan to post once a week about each issue. To read previous posts, click the link (52!).

Synopsis

“Thief”

Week 8, Night 1: At Steelworks, Natasha Irons is busy building her armor, eliciting a proud smile from her uncle John. Later, just as John is listening to a news report about Luthor’s metagene program, his chest transforms into metal.

In Star City, Green Arrow stops a store owner from chasing down a thief (and giving us the elicit use of the issue’s title and on the same page as the title!). Nearby, Green Arrow explains to Ralph Dibny that he thought the thief was the “guy charging thirty bucks for disposable diapers in a disaster zone” — typical Ollie! Ollie is guilt-ridden for not being able to keep his chosen city safe during the metahuman war. Ralph also tells Ollie that he lost his taste for gingold last year.

But Ralph is there to ask for Green Arrow’s help to investigate the Cult of Connor location in Star City. Ralph tells GA that the Cult believes that the dead can be resurrected.

Week 8, Day 3: John Irons visits STAR Labs seeking help with his condition. Based on the analysis, the metal in his body is stainless steel, “Lex Luthor’s idea of a joke”. John theorizes that when Luthor visited STAR Labs (in issue three), he must have “injected me with something … that either triggered my metagene … or infected me with one…”.

Week 8, Day 3 – 5: A new superhero is in town saving people and Booster is not happy about it. He asks reporter Clark Kent is he knows who the “new mystery hero” is. Clark tells him no, but that he will find out.

At Steelworks, Natasha is asked to relay a message to John about the “Luthor metagene strain” that is rewriting her uncle’s DNA. She then sees a LexCorp Everyman Project flyer poking out of John’s briefcase.

Week 8, Night 5: That night, Natasha is working on her armor when she knocks part of the suit to the floor, breaking it. John arrives to see if his niece is ok and she confronts him about what she discovered earlier, calling him a liar.

Adam Strange and Animal Man find Starfire in a net and realize too late that she was bait and they also become trapped and then held in a giant’s hand.

Week 8, Day 7: In Metropolis, Lex Luthor arrives at one of his properties with hundreds of people waiting to be chosen for his Everyone Project. He spots Natasha Irons in the crowd and grants her an opportunity.

Week 8, Night 7: That night, Natasha is hooked up to the DNA resequencing equipment. A technician asks Luthor which resequencing string to use and Luthor says, “The whole package…”.

Thoughts

First, yet another noteworthy cover by Jones and Sinclair. I love the inspirational tone of the flyer-like cover with the “Be Your Own HERO” tag-line and the generic superheroes flying under a blue sky, all undermined by Lex Luthor’s face in the red zone, almost like Hades in the underworld. I’m surprised they didn’t use something like this for the flyer that appears in the issue, but obviously Luthor wouldn’t use John Henry Irons’ likeness, but I could totally see him using his own.

Given the title of the issue, “Thief”, what is stolen? The obvious first choice is the person stealing the groceries or, flipped, the store owner trying to make a huge profit during a crisis. Also stolen is John Iron’s choice about being a metahuman. The glory and fame could be considered by Booster Gold to be stolen by this newcomer hero. Luthor is perhaps stealing the hopes and dreams of those he is transforming. Too on the nose or just enough to be interesting? I think I prefer story titles that keep me intrigued as to the meaning (and forcing me to look up the reference).

Speaking of Luthor, his direct admission to his assistant Mercy that the candidates for the Everyman Project are his slaves is just too movie serial villainesque. Where’s the subtlety of character? I don’t find this overt Luthor to be interesting at all. I did, however, like the sneer on Mercy’s face when Luthor called the nearby throng his slaves — such contempt for the common man!

The scene where Ralph is explaining what the Cult of Connor is about to Green Arrow was good. The way the artists drew that final panel on the page has Ralph looking at Ollie wide eyed in the realization that Ollie was recently brought back from the dead — the investigation into why the cultists defaced Sue’s grave has now just turned for Ralph, I think.

We have continuity glitch regarding the timeline. When John Irons visits STAR Labs, the caption reads “Day 3”, but the establishing panel clearly shows this taking place at night, so it should be Night 2 because the next scene is Day 3. A minor quibble.

Supernova! While not identified as such in this issue, I remember being very excited that this character had returned, but then I realized that I was thinking of Superman’s alternate identity of Nova from World’s Finest #178 that I probably read in the DC Special Series #23 digest. Regardless, I was convinced that DC was playing with that concept again and this Supernova was Superman, albeit a changed one. After all, if Superman could rebrand himself as a superpowerless hero all those years ago, why not again?

I’m finding the petulant teenager bit of Natasha to more and more grating. I don’t think John’s lesson in hard work and humility is working on his niece. I do like that in the LexCorp flyer she finds in John’s briefcase the superheroes are colored in green and purple — just like Luthor’s old battle armor. Nice touch there, Mr. Sinclair!

Another nice artistic touch is the final page showing Natasha connected to the metagene equipment because the arm and leg wires (for lack of a better word) are shaped similar to a DNA helix.

Two months in and I find myself more interested in the Ralph, Booster (as it pertains to Rip Hunter), and Black Adam stories more so than the Steel, lost in space trio, and Renee stories. It’ll be interesting to see how that evolves over time. Given the length of the series and how many plots and characters need to be juggled every few issues, I’m not surprised at my reaction, however.

History of the DCU, part 7

by Jurgens, Lanning, Napolitano, Cox, Major, Berganza, Cohen, and Schaefer

It is noted that post-Zero Hour, the timeline was reconstructed and that “previous inconsistencies and anomalies were corrected”, but how accurate is that statement at that time in DC’s publication history? The rest is a recap of late 90s and early 2000s DC Comics history, focusing a lot on the teams of that era (it pleases me that Titans characters are spotlighted multiple times in various teams).

One thing of note that is not familiar to me is the reference to Hourman being rescued by the JSA right before he died. I am not at all familiar with this event, and considering that Hourman is one of my favorite JSAers, I need to know more! So, good job (finally) History of the DCU for introducing me to something I didn’t know already.

This segment ends with a reference to Sue’s death, so I guess the next issue’s installment will be the last or nearly so? Will this backup series be replaced with something else, or will the main story in 52 take up more pages? Tune in next week, dear reader, as I find out!

52! Week Seven

By Johns, Morrison, Rucka, Waid, Giffen, Lashley, Draxhall, Sinclair, Lanham, Jones, Richards, and Wacker. Cover by Jones and Sinclair.

52 was a weekly series published by DC Comics starting in May, 2006. Because I had my 52nd birthday in late 2020, I thought it might be interesting (fun?) to examine this series 15 years later. I plan to post once a week about each issue. To read previous posts, click the link (52!).

Synopsis

“Going Down”

On that alien planet, Adam Strange is still repairing the Thanagarian warbird so he, Starfire, and Animal Man can go home. However, his companions are being no help at all because they’re eating fruit that is messing with their minds. Strange squabbles with Starfire, goading her into looking for a mysterious power source they detected.

Week 7, Day 2. It’s been weeks since Renee has seen The Question, but she still ponders the clues she has and discovers one literally under her nose.

Week 7, Day 3. Ralph visits Booster to talk to him about the Cult of Connor, but Booster is distracted by a threat over the phone and an impending future event he is supposed to stop. It’s then that Ralph realizes that Booster could have known about Sue’s murder and this makes Ralph. Very. Upset.

Renee crashes a soiree at the Kane estate to ask Kate about 520 Kane Street. After punching Renee and some discussion, Kate agrees to help her former lover.

In Metropolis, Booster arrives at a LexCorp building and is confronted by the actor he hired to play a villain previously. The actor spills the beans in front of the crowd and press. Ralph piles on, asking Booster, “How many other of these … ‘death-defying rescues’ have you staged to improve your marketability?”

On that alien world, Starfire appears to have found that power source. As she looks up at it, we see a giant behind her reaching for its staff.

Thoughts

First, another noteworthy cover by Jones and Sinclair. I love the contrasting qualities of the red border and the black and white, printed-in-a-tabloid “photo” of Booster attempting to shield himself from the camera with the word EXPOSED! across his image. Just lovely.

Interesting that the first sequence on the alien world has no timestamp (it did in issue 5), but I also like that because time seems to relative when it comes to isolation, not to mention when the day appears to be as long as weeks. I wonder if the creative team had been thinking of that? About this scene in particular, I didn’t care for the exposition from Adam to the two people who already know this information! They may just as well have had Strange say, “As you know…”. But then, we get this exchange between Strange and Starfire about the fruit she and Buddy are eating where she almost laments that Strange doesn’t “know how delicious it is” because he won’t eat any, and a little later, she echoes that thought: “…you won’t eat any…”. It’s not just that the fruit is intoxicating, it’s possibly a way to trap prey? Is it being used by the mysterious predator discussed in issue 5?

In Renee’s scene, we see a shot of her cast upon which she has drawn many question marks. Now, we have already seen her as obsessive, but to mark her arm in that way? Is this merely hinting at the future (she is becoming the question) or just that the artist thought it would be funny to draw all those question marks? I am tired of seeing Renee pose with that alien looking gun. I have a gun and I don’t pick it up as I’m thinking through something. But to each their own, I guess.

I loved the scene between Ralph and Booster. The artists drew Ralph’s face in shadows and almost always looking down, suggesting the grief that consumes him. Besides that, when Ralph realizes that “this whole era is history” to Booster, he shoves Booster into the wall, screaming at him, “why the hell didn’t you warn me my wife was going to die?” Booster tells Ralph that he was just as surprised about Sue’s death, saying, “I didn’t learn every little detail…” (about the past), Ralph responds through gritted teeth, Little. DETAIL?” I love how the creative team took these two sort of joke characters and are giving them some real-life drama to deal with.

In regards to the Kate and Renee scene, it almost feels like I missed something because this doesn’t seem like the Kate Kane I am familiar with, but that’s probably more to do with my lack of familiarity or were there changes in the future continuity of her character? I seem to be bumping against this idea of Kate as a debutante and former military. Not to say that a person can’t be both, but the difference seems too far? I guess I’ll find out as we move along.

I knew that actor would be bad news for Booster, but I expected that plot point to be more drawn out. And what does the actor expect to get out of this exposure? Despite what he says, him coming clean about his involvement in this scam doesn’t exonerate him legally, but I guess if you sway public opinion enough…? And then to have Ralph kick Booster while he’s down is a great counterpoint to the earlier scene between them.

In the final, wordless scene with Starfire, we see what looks like a Kirbyesque (or is it an actual Kirby character?) giant. I have no idea who this is, so I’m looking forward to the next scene and to see if this giant plays a larger role in the story.

Finally, the art this issue (specifically the inking), for the first time, is not to my liking, coming across as uneven comparatively in the different scenes. So far, this series has been superbly consistent, but this really highlights how well the team has been doing on this WEEKLY series. If it normally takes weeks to produce a comic book that is printed monthly, I can only imagine the chaos that was this book. It’s really a testament to all the creatives and editors who worked on it.

History of the DCU, part 6

by Jurgens, Rapmund, Major, Cox, Leigh, Berganza, Cohen, and Schaefer

The events of Zero Hour get the spotlight here. One item that piqued my interest was the comment by the Orb that Hal Jordan, as Parallax, in his desire to erase the “destruction of Coast City and other events that he didn’t like”,

He would have created multiple universes with multiple Earths, unwittingly restoring much of what existed before the Crisis.

Ok. First, I don’t recall that aspect of Zero Hour (and now I want to go read that series again). Second, the way that sentence is written, it implies that restoring the multiverse was not a good thing. Now, I know DC editorial thought so, but in universe, what is the meaning behind this? Plus, given what is going on in Death Metal and Perpetua and the omniverse, this comment takes on an almost prophetic tone. Could this have inspired Scott Snyder??? ;)

It’s interesting to me now that this History of the DCU is focusing on all the crises because it’s highlighting the transitory nature of the DCU, and perhaps not so positively. I mean, I read all of those crisis books as they were being published, and I was excited about them and what these changes could mean, but looking back on it in this way seems almost to devalue the characters and the “universe” that DC Comics had been building for decades.